That time my dad’s ex-wife died and I didn’t mention it for eight months

So, back in January, I wrote the following on my Facebook page:

I am not really sure of what I want to say yet, because my former stepmother, my father’s second wife, was a complicated person and we had a complicated relationship. What can you say when you wish things hadn’t happened, and yet, you are who you are because of those things? So I’m going through old photos and I’m thinking over old times, and I’ll just let what David said speak for me as well. Vol, thank you for the wonderful, strong person you brought into this world in FL, for whom I am grateful to have in my life as more than a stepsister; as a friend.

And I have to be honest, I mean, I *meant* to eventually write a blog post about it, I just… I wasn’t sure what to say, and then the pandemic happened, and yadda yadda yadda. I kept putting off writing about it, but then I also didn’t write about anything else, because whenever I’d sit down to write a blog post I had this “oh I should write about ____” but I didn’t want to, and yet… no other words would come. For a few weeks now, I’ve been wanting to get back to regular blogging, but kept feeling like this topic was… damming everything up. So. Here we go.

For a number of years I’ve been wondering how I’d feel when my Stepmonster died. I mean, odds were, she’d go before me, since she’s older and I don’t live a very risky lifestyle. So what was I going to do, then? I prepared myself for pretty much anything. For anger, that she was such an angry, mean person who drove everyone either crazy or away, and yet she lived so much longer than my father. I prepared myself for regret, because not like I ever thought we’d work things out, or that I’d get an apology, once she was gone there would really be no chance of either of those. I prepared myself for sadness, although god knows why. Sad, maybe, that she was loved once, and either never loved herself enough to think she deserved that or didn’t love anyone else enough to care. I prepared myself to have a lifetime of confusion and anger and frustration and to possibly need to go to a therapist a few times to deal with that and work through it. I prepared myself to be relieved, that I’d never have to worry about running into her at a science fiction convention or something.

But you know how it’s never what you expect? Like, you prep and prep for a hurricane, and then you get an earthquake? I wasn’t prepared to feel … this curious mix of forgiveness and nothing.

Within a few minutes of getting the message that she’d died, I felt… I felt like I could let this go. I’d had these … things … these memories, questions, hurts, confusions, angers … I had them in a box in my emotional attic and instead of having to go through the box when she died and wondering what to do with all this … garbage …? I pitched that fucker out the window and never looked out to see if it landed. None of it mattered.

In fact, it so much “doesn’t matter” that I could write another five or six paragraphs about individual things, but… what’s the point? And I don’t mean that in a sort of depressed, Eeyore, Marvin the Paranoid Android kind of way. I mean it in… in a … she didn’t win. She couldn’t love me but she didn’t break me, and any part of my heart or energy moving forward trying to understand her just isn’t even necessary. I’m alive. She’s not. It doesn’t matter what she did, it matters how I carry myself going forward in my life.

Two months later, in March, I met my stepsister at my favorite place. We hugged. We drank. We ate. We walked around and watched giraffes until we sobered up. She gave me the ashes of her mother, my Stepmonster, and I brought them home.

The plan was to, at some point this summer when FL’s father, Vol’s first husband, was well enough to travel that they’d all fly back down here and we’d bury her ashes out at Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery. FL wasn’t really sure what to do with her – Vol hadn’t left any directives – so a few weeks after she died, I suggest the idea of Prairie Creek Conservation Cemetery. It’s a natural burial site. Yes, primarily they do bodies, but they do take cremains if they’re in a compostable container, so that’s what we went with.

There’s two things going on here at the same time. First, in suggesting such a lovely, beautiful and still place for her to rest, I feel I was kinder to her in that moment than she was to me for most of our lives together. I don’t mean that in a “hey look how awesome I am” way, but in a “huh, how weird, it turns out that I can have compassion for someone who hurt me and that’s a little unexpected because don’t I have a small black and bitter heart?” And the second thing is that at Prairie Creek, I get to help dig the grave, and I can not even tell you how thrilled that idea makes me.

That was the first week of March, and I think maybe a week later was when talk from the CDC sounded like things were going to get bad. And the rest is history, as they say. Or is still history being made. Obviously traveling hasn’t been at the top of anyone’s wish list, and it’s not like Vol is going anywhere. And it’s given me the excuse to not think or talk about it, so, yay?

But now? I’m ready to move on. I’m sorry for you, Vol, that you had your own rough start in life. And it breaks my heart that a living human being on this planet was so unhappy and angry and self-hating all the time. Vol, you could never let go of your past. But I can.

Remember craft shows and farmer’s markets?!

Late last year, around late October or early November, I started doing a farmer’s market close-by, in Melrose. It was definitely what you’d think a small-town farmer’s market would be like. Right about the time I was starting to think that it might not be the most cost-effective choice I could make (more on that in a minute), the pandemic started and it shut down for a few weeks. I’ve just never gone back. And it occurred to me this week that usually about this time of year I am scrambling like a madwoman, trying to get ready for the Florida Fiber-In. Not this year. Again, pandemic.

The above photo is from last year’s Florida Fiber-In.

Above is a gallery of pictures I took at the Melrose Farmer’s Market. Maybe. If they all upload. I’ll just keep typing and let it figure it out. I have no idea how well that worked – I’ll find out when I hit publish. Hopefully it uploaded everything I wanted, and nothing twice.

Anyway!

The actual price of a table at the Farmer’s Market was extremely reasonable. So when I said above that it wasn’t cost-effective, I didn’t mean in one of those “it’s costing me more to come here than I’m making” ways. But in addition to the three hours of the market, there was an additional two hours for making sure I had everything, packing the car, unloading at the park, setting up, and then after, packing everything back up. Let’s tack on another half hour to get dressed and get a snack in me. So by “cost” I really mean more “time that I wasn’t working” because the stuff I could bring with me to work on there was limited to knitting or spinning.

Knowing it was going to be unreasonably hot and raining as we headed farther into the year, and also having told myself in November I’d try it for three months… towards early March I was already on the fence about how long to continue. When the pandemic happened, and everything non-essential was shut down for a few weeks, I took that as a sign and began to bow out. Then when I heard a month or two later that they were picking it back up, I thought about going back… until I heard that masks weren’t enforced, and that was a hard pass for me. I am, in case you haven’t guessed, Team Mask.

There was going to be a Spring GLAM, which I was looking forward to, but I definitely understand that being called. That was scheduled for early or mid April, and we were still kind of in the thick of it then. I thought, well, that sucks, but everyone will stay home for two or three weeks and wear masks and then we’ll all be fine and get back to normal, right?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

I’ll be very glad if December GLAM doesn’t get cancelled as well. Would I even feel safe doing it, if it’s on? I think so. I would be outside, because I have a 10×10. I’ve been following along with some of my friends as they get back into doing events, and I’d take their advice as far as how to set up the booth to encourage sales but discourage crowding… get lots of hand sanitizer… that sort of thing.

And I was feeling kind of “what am I forgetting” earlier this week when I realized… in a normal year, Florida Fiber-In would be in about a week or so. So me not freaking out about getting a ton of stuff done is what I’m forgetting. It’s kind of funny, really, that Fiber-In was cancelled because of the pandemic, because I was really thinking that I as going to skip this year anyway. Again, cost – this time, unlike the cost of time, I really do mean the financial cost. There’s a hotel room. There’s food for me and whomever I bring with me to help me. There’s the vendor fee. There’s gas for driving. I have to do a certain $ that weekend to justify me being able to go, and frankly, last year I just barely broke even. Scratch that, I don’t think I did break even. That and a few other reasons …. well, I was just going to bow out this year. And then this year got cancelled.

I am kind of enjoying not being stressed out in September. Although it’s also hard to believe it’s September, and that I should start thinking of holiday shopping soon. And I’m trying to think about what I might do if GLAM is cancelled, because that is a really good weekend for me. I’ve seen other potters who have done individualized open houses — basically, you post a bunch of times that you’d be willing to walk around the shop with someone for an hour, and let people sign up. That way, unlike a regular open house, there aren’t a lot of people around (because pandemic). I would enforce mask wearing, and clean in between each visit, and… well, I don’t know, this is still kind of a baby of an idea, definitely not fleshed out all the way. I mean, would people even want to drive all the way out here for an hour with me and my stuff?

Anyway. Wow. Even the Melrose Market feels like a million years ago, let alone GLAM of last year (which was wonderful by the way, I rode high on all those hugs for weeks!). Remember going to craft shows and farmer’s markets? Are you doing anything like that currently, either to buy or to sell? How do you feel about it? Does it feel safe, or like a petri dish of horror?

Mask it or Casket

I am firmly in Team Mask, and if you’re not, that’s fine, but I don’t really give a shit why you’re not and I won’t argue about it with you. This post is for people who are in the market for masks, or maybe more masks, I don’t judge. I already have a collection.

My first three masks were from my friend Sharon. She sent me one that will fit Tim, and two smaller ones for me, one with ties and one with elastic.

My fourth mask was made by my friend Erin. She posted that she had a suggested donation and that anything extra would be used to buy material to make more masks to give to local homeless (house-less?) people who can’t afford masks. I donated more.

The next one was made by a friend of a friend, who I’ve come to know through the Facebooks, Tenise. She and her wife are awesome badasses, and while they primarily make soap and lotion (which you should also try) they’ve got the skills so they stepped up for mask-making, as well.

The most recent addition to the group is by my friend May, because hello, we are both Disney nerds, so how can I pass that one up?!

You can see the difference in how I wear them; the above has ties, and the below has around-the-ear elastics. Why do I tie the ties above my head and not straight in back? I don’t know. I blame growing up on MASH.

Those two are the ones I got from Sharon (I’m not going to model the one she made for Tim). Sharon’s online shop is Passiondale Sews; she’s sold out of masks right now (she’s working on a large bulk order <3 ) but she has a couple of tea totes in, and if you message her she can probably give you an idea of when the next mask update might be.

Both of her masks have pockets in which a filter can be placed and replaced as necessary.

The flower one there I got from Erin – again, with the straps, so I wear the bottom strap pulled up and tied on the top of my head. I feel like it does give me a bit of a tighter fit around the chin (and as I said above, I watched a lot of MASH growing up). She makes them in small batches, and posts when she has a batch; you can find the current ones here. The ties are jersey, so super soft, and they also have a pocket for a filter. When I bought mine, she also included some blue filter material that can be cut to size.

This one I got from Tenise, and her Etsy shop is Dragonfly Lake Scents. I had seen this fabric on the Facebook page, but didn’t see a listing in the shop. However, when I asked, she had it in mere minutes. So ask if you don’t see something! Oooo, in getting that link, I see that there are some new “adult content” masks… I may need another, hahahahahah! This mask is comfy and very light – honestly I kind of forget I’m wearing it, the elastic is that easy on the ears. And also, while you’re looking at her masks, try her soap. Seriously.

I MEAN COME ON! HOW COULD I RESIST IT?!?!?! This one is by my friend May, or Miss M, some of you may know her as PhoenixFire Designs… I’ve talked about her jewelry before. However, I believe all of her masks are located here at Buy Local Tampa Bay. Do I need another, with the Florida print…? Well, “need”… I mean, eventually I should have more like ten, so I don’t have to wash them every day, right? I can just throw them in with the laundry? Anyway; this is the tightest of the masks, not in an uncomfortably tight way, more in a good fit way. You’re not going to have to constantly adjust with this one. It’s also got a great bendy piece of metal for the nose, to help with that good fit.

I’m getting two main things from this post; I might have a minor mask obsession, and my eyebrows are out of control.

Anyway, if you’re looking for an awesome mask that helps to support small crafters and makers, I highly recommend all of these makers. They don’t know I’m writing this, by the way, and will likely call me out on Facebook in about half an hour, wondering why I didn’t say this or that, haha.

Hooray, Team Mask, and hooray for small artists, makers, and crafters who have all really stepped up to provide quality products made with joy and rage and heart and tears and love during this crazy time.